Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cleaning up some paperwork

A few odds and ends that have been cluttering my desk here at Rancho Yesteryear—a notable passing from the world of OTR, good news for Leave It to Beaver fans, and a mini-review of a movie I watched on TCM last night.

Shirley Bell Cole, the child actress who achieved great fame as the voice of radio’s Little Orphan Annie, passed away on January 12th of this year of natural causes in Arizona at the age of 89. I went searching for an old article on the Internets about Bell that I pointed to in May 2004 from my old Salon neighborhood but it has since disappeared; however, this obituary makes very good reading and contains a comment from OTR historian Chuck Schaden (author of the splendid compilation of interviews with stars from Radio’s Golden Age, Speaking of Radio). (I particularly liked the bit where Cole admitted that she didn’t particularly care for Ovaltine.) Many thanks to Laura “Your book has displeased me, and for that you shall die” Wagner who posted the L.A. Times obit on Facebook.

Who's that little chatter box?

The one with pretty auburn locks?

Whom do you see?

It's Little Orphan Annie...

R.I.P, Ms. Bell Cole. You will be missed.

I received notification from Hal Erickson last week (I meant to post this sooner, and kept putting it off so my apologies) that his issue with not being able to record TCM movies on his DVD recorder has been dealt with and fixed. As he suspected, the problem was…well, I’m not at liberty to divulge who was responsible—suffice it to say that Hal knows people who know people, and they agreed to accommodate him. He told me this wasn’t a guarantee that the problem would not resurface, but he’s hoping it doesn’t rear its ugly head until TCM finishes its Saturday morning cycle of showing Bowery Boys films, which starts in March.

Bill Crider, pulp fiction practitioner and professional curmudgeon, has penned two new books for an outfit entitled “Macavity Press International”—the first being Once Again, Texas Leads the Way and the other Will the Persecution Never End? The third title in what can only be called a “Crider trilogy” will be announced tomorrow—and I’ll bet dollars to donuts it will have something to do with getting kids off his lawn.

In the All Good Things Come to Those Who Wait…Eventually department, TVShowsOnDVD.com is reporting that Shout! Factory is picking up where the last Leave It to Beaver collection left off (that would be season 2) and will issue forth on June 15th Leave It to Beaver: Season 3, a collection of all thirty-nine episodes originally telecast during the 1959-60 season. But wait…as they always say…there’s more: on the same day, the Factory will release a honkin’ big thirty-seven disc box set entitled Leave it to Beaver: The Complete Series—which will bundle the first two seasons (which were released in 2005 and 2006 via Universal) along with Seasons Three through Six. And…well…gosh, Wally…since this is a big set, it’ll probably have a lot extras and junk. The bonus material information isn’t available yet, but I’m sure TSOD will keep us posted.

I must also apologize for the spotty movie reviews on the blog of late, the past couple of days I was sidelined with some sort of crud in my lungs and I really didn’t feel like doing a whole lot except dosing up on Tylenol Cold medicine and seeing how long I could sleep without developing severe bedsores. I did tune into TCM last night and watched Man Hunt (1941, which I talked about here) and followed that up with Red, Hot and Blue (1949)—a Betty Hutton vehicle that even Hutton partisan Bobby Osbo admitted was “no great shakes.” That’s a bit of an understatement; I’m usually up for anything featuring “the Hutton-tot” but Blue is disappointing in most departments: Victor Mature is miscast as Betty’s beau (an aspiring stage director obsessed with Shakespeare), William Demarest (I think this may be the biggest crime of them all) has virtually nothing to do and even Hutton started to get on my nerves within the first half-hour (maybe taking large amounts of speed isn’t such a good idea after all). The movie—which casts Bets as a wannabe actress who witnesses the murder of a gangster-turned-producer (William Tallman)—does have a few high points: I liked Betty’s tipsy antics in a nightclub (she gets doused with a bucket of ice water and throws a dessert in some dowager’s face) and her renditions of Hamlet and Now That I Need You. But the movie wraps up with an uncomfortably violent free-for-all that seems better suited for a Three Stooges short. June Havoc (as Hutton’s supportive gal pal), Art Smith, Jack Kruschen and Percy Helton are all seen to good advantage; Blue also features in uncredited roles Julie (Julia) Adams, Bess “Queen of the Dress Extras” Flowers, Noel Neill, Tim Ryan and Douglas “Watch the skies!” Spencer. Plus, tunesmith Frank Loesser appears in a rare acting role as a gangster named “Hairdo Lempke.” (I swear I didn’t make that up.)

Tonight will be a different story on TCM as the cable channel concludes its Shadows of Russia festival with a pair of movies I’ve been waiting all month to see: at 8pm, Leo McCarey’s anti-Communist My Son John (1952), followed at 10:15 by the agitprop noir I Was a Communist for the FBI (1951). I must reluctantly admit that I didn’t get around to seeing as many of the movies in this presentation as I wanted—though I did manage to record Spring Madness (1938) and Rasputin and the Empress (1932), I just haven’t been able to squeeze them in for a viewing—but I think the blame needs to be placed squarely on the shoulders of TCM…because I was laboring under the misapprehension that such a venue would feature a television appearance from the two individuals involved in conceiving the project, New York Post film critic Lou Lumenick and the Self-Styled Siren herownself (oh, how it pains me to “out” this blogger of mystery), Farran Smith Nehme. But no. All they got was a chance to do an online video over at the Post (they must have yanked it), and while I wish no ill will towards anyone—being on an Internet video is not the same as being on television. (Any idiot with a video phone and access to YouTube can do the former.) So, this got me to thinking—almost as if it were some lame idea I’d been mulling over the past few days or so—what would a Nehme/Lumenick TCM appearance look like? {{{{{wavy lines}}}}}

The scene opens with TCM’s primetime credits, or what my esteemed blogging colleague The Derelict likes to call “the one where all the digitally-enhanced people stare up at the billboard like a bunch of yuppie zombies.” The credits fade, and then fade up to that oh-so-familiar TCM set, where Robert Osborne, Lou Lumenick and Farran Smith Nehme are seated in those comfy overstuffed chairs. Osborne looks at the camera and smiles:

OSBORNE: Hi, I’m Robert Osborne and welcome to the last night of our special TCM salute, Shadows of Russia. Joining me are the lovely Farran Smith Nehme, who blogs as The Self-Styled Siren…and Lou Limerick, another critic. Great to have you both with us.

SIREN: Thank you, Robert…

LOU: Um, Robert…you’re mispronouncing my name again…it’s…

OSBORNE (interrupting): Limerick, why don’t you be a good sport and get some more ice for the bucket—this champagne is getting a bit tepid…

LOU (after looking around for a moment): Um…okay…but it’s Lumenick…my name is Lumenick

OSBORNE: Like it matters…and no need to hurry back, take your time…

(Lumenick leaves his chair and starts to walk off…until the shadow of a crew member’s hand can be seen pointing in the opposite direction. Osborne continues talking.)

OSBORNE: Geez, I thought he’d never leave…why did you invite him here again?

SIREN: Well, Robert—he did help develop the idea for the festival with me…I thought it only right that…

OSBORNE: Well, I don’t like that guy…I watched him during dinner…he took the last bread roll…

SIREN: Aren’t we kind of straying from the…

OSBORNE (cutting her off): Tell us a little about the film we’re going to be watching, Miss Smith…

SIREN: Oh…okay…and it’s Mrs…not Miss…

OSBORNE: You’re married?

SIREN: Yes, I am…and rather happily, I might add…I also have…

OSBORNE: Oh, bother… (muttering) I should have sent you out for ice…

SIREN: Robert, you’re incorrigible! Our next feature on Shadows of Russia is the 1952 film My Son John, which stars Robert Walker as a son hiding his Communist leanings from his mother, played by Helen Hayes, and his father, played by Dean Jagger. It was directed by…

OSBORNE: You know, it’s a good thing we don’t actually have to sit through these films because this one sounds like a sure cure for insomnia. I do like Walker in Strangers on a Train (1951), though. Have you ever seen that one?

SIREN: Yes, but once again I think we’ve sort of drifted away from…

OSBORNE: I’d much rather watch that again. Would you care to join me?

SIREN: But what about the rest of the introduction?

OSBORNE: Oh, bother the introduction…we’ll get that friend of yours to finish it up…allow me to escort you to my sanctum sanctorum…

SIREN (with a coquettish laugh): Mr. Osborne…this is so forward of you!

(Osborne and Nehme walk over to the far corner of the set, whereupon Osborne presses a button on the wall, and the wall swings back to reveal a secret passage. The two disappear into the passage as the wall swings shut…and at that point, Lumenick returns to the set with his shirt filled with ice…)

LOU: Robert, I couldn’t find anything to put the ice in, so I…Robert? Farran? (Looking around) Where is everybody?

(Fade to black.)

It needs a little work, but you get the general idea. (I’m kicking around the idea of fleshing it out as an homage to Mad Love [1935].)

Finally—in case you haven’t stumbled upon this—I had to make some changes to the comments policy here at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear. You may not believe this, but the traffic around here has really picked up (I’m not sure how this happened myself, probably a glitch in Blogger) and suffice it to say, I have found myself recently inundated with a number of individuals who, not content to do this on their own websites or blogs, feel the need to ride on the TDOY coattails and attempt to shill products like Viagra, Cialis, etc. Moderating the comments helped a bit in the past, but not a day goes by when I do not have to delete these examples of rampant hucksterism and the only way I could get this to work was to put the smack down on anonymous comments. I’m not happy to have to be doing this—some of the “anonymous” statements are actually germane to the subjects discussed here, and more than one individual has had to post anonymously because he’s a victim of the same malady that I’ve succumbed to whereupon I’m incapable of remembering my password (I believe the medical term is “brain fart.”) If there were any other way of working around this issue, I’d switch to it in a New York minute…and if anyone has any suggestions, feel free to drop me an e-mail.

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7 comments:

Lou Lumenick said...

Very droll, Ivon!

Evan Lewis said...

Do you, too, have an inside source at Macavity Press??

Tom said...

Robert Walker died during the filming of "John", so they had to re-write the movie's last scenes (and it shows, I think). RIP Shirley Bell Cole; am a big OTR fan myself and love Chuck Schaden, who's from my neck of the woods up here. Also, I hate to break it to you, but Zelda Rubenstein from the "Poltergeist" series passed away today.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

I love your Osborne-Nehme-Lumenick (AKA Limerick)triangle scenario.

Regarding Shirley Bell Cole, your comments shot me right back to my childhood and my mother's reminiscing of her favorite radio show as a child. She used to boast that she figured out the secret message without the decoder. Some kids' mothers sang them lullabyes. Mine sang the theme song to "Little Orphan Annie".

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Lou: Thanks for being a good sport!

Tom: Thanks for the heads-up on Zelda Rubinstein--her obit appears above.

Stacia said...

I saw Siren and Lou briefly on TCM, I believe it was on the half hour "Now Playing" show for January.

It's so odd to hear about Shirley Bell Cole, as my dad listened to her show when he was a little kid and he died nearly a decade ago. I would bet she outlived most of the kids who listened to her.

The Derelict said...

Funny stuff! I was LOLing, especially over your Bob Osborne's mispronunciation of Lou Lumenick's name (Limerick! -- snerk!)

Thanks for quoting me too. *blush*

I haven't watched any of the Shadows of Russia movies I DVRed yet -- I'm planning to do a huge marathon this weekend actually.